Plaster vs Drywall for Hanging Pictures [What’s the Difference?]

When hanging pictures on drywall, use screws driven into studs wherever possible. If you are hanging your picture at a point where there is no wall stud, use anchored screws. These two techniques also work well for plaster, with some key differences. Pre-drill all holes before setting screws or anchors into plaster. With drywall, it’s acceptable to drive in your screw without pre-drilling, or to use self-tapping anchors. Always use proper methods for how to tell drywall vs plaster before you start hanging pictures.

Plaster vs Drywall hanging pictures

Are Plaster Walls Better Than Drywall for Hanging Pictures?

You can easily hang pictures on both drywall and plaster walls. In fact, many of the same techniques work for either type of wall. The main difference you need to account for is that drywall is typically 0.5 inches (13 mm) thick. Meanwhile, plaster walls may be up to 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick. When pre-drilling holes, setting screws, and choosing anchors, account for the thickness of your wall.

  • Similar techniques can be used to hang pictures on both drywall and plaster.
  • Drywall is thinner and softer, making it easier to drive in screws and fasteners.
  • Plaster is thicker and more brittle, meaning it is more prone to cracking if it is not properly pre-drilled.

Drywall is a softer building material. Nails can be hammered into drywall easily and you can drive in screws without causing damage. Plaster, on the other hand, is much more brittle and easy to crack or chip. To prevent damage to plaster walls, always pre-drill a hole in the plaster before driving in a screw, anchor, or nail.

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How Much Weight Can Plaster Walls Hold vs Drywall?

Both plaster and drywall can hold roughly the same amount of weight. A screw driven into a stud in both plaster and drywall can hold 80–100 pounds (36–45 kilos). Anchored screws or other fasteners set into the wall where there is no stud can hold up to 20 pounds (9 kilos).

  • Plaster and drywall can hold the same amount of weight.
  • If you screw into a stud in both plaster and drywall walls, you can suspend up to 100 pounds per screw.
  • If you use fasteners that do not attach to a stud, you can hang up to 20 pounds per fastener.
  • Use multiple screws or fasteners to hang heavier items.

You can increase the amount of weight you can suspend from drywall or plaster by increasing the number of mounts you put into your walls. If one anchored screw can hold 20 pounds, you can use two anchored screws to share the load and hang an object that weighs up to 40 pounds (18 kilos).

Hanging Pictures on Drywall

There are several methods for hanging pictures on drywall. Here, we’ll cover a simple, sturdy, cheap method for hanging pictures with or without using a wall stud. You can hang a picture using only a drill, screws, and some drywall anchors.

How to Hang Pictures on Drywall Using Wall Stud

First, use a stud finder to locate a stud behind your drywall. If there is a stud in the wall where you want to hang your pictures, drive a 2-1/2 inch drywall screw into the stud to provide a solid support. If desired, angle the screw slightly upwards to provide a good hook for your picture.

  • Use this stud finder to search for wall studs before hanging your picture.
  • Drive these drywall screws into studs to hang items.
  • Although pre-drilling a hole in drywall isn’t required, it can lead to a cleaner hole when the screw is driven in.
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In most cases, you can drive a screw straight into drywall without causing any damage. However, there are rare occasions where this can cause slight bubbling of the drywall. If you wish to avoid this, pre-drill a pilot hole for your screw, using a drill bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the screw.

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How to Hang Pictures on Drywall Without Wall Stud

If there is no stud where you want to hang the picture on your drywall wall, first drill a hole and set a drywall anchor, followed by a screw. This will protect your drywall from damage and ensure your picture stays up. A screw drilled into drywall without an anchor is prone to tearing out of the wall, causing damage.

  • Use this set of drywall screws and anchors to hang items where there is no wall stud.
  • Do not use a screw without an anchor unless you are screwing into a stud. Unanchored screws in drywall will pull out.
  • Alternatively, use toggle bolts to suspend items on drywall where there is no wall stud.

While screws and anchors are a simple and sturdy solution for hanging pictures, there are other options. Toggle bolts pierce through drywall and brace against the back of the drywall. They make for a very durable hanging system that some manufacturers claim can hold upwards of 40 pounds (18 kilos) even where there is no stud behind the drywall.

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Hanging Pictures on Plaster

Hanging pictures on a plaster wall is very similar to hanging them on drywall. You’ll just need some specialized tools and equipment to get the job done. However, you’ll find the job isn’t as daunting as you might’ve previously thought.

How to Hang Pictures on Plaster Using Wall Stud

Always pre-drill a pilot hole before driving any screw, anchor, or nail into plaster. If you attempt to drive a screw directly through plaster, you can cause cracks to spread across your wall. For best results, follow these steps:

  • A standard stud finder won’t work on plaster walls. You’ll need to use this magnetic stud finder.
  • Mark the location of the stud with a piece of tape.
  • Drill a pilot hole through the piece of tape and plaster. This will prevent the plaster from cracking.
  • Drive the screw through the plaster and into the stud.

It’s important to use a magnetic stud finder when working with plaster walls. Standard stud finders simply won’t work. Plaster is backed by wood lath, which will cause a stud finder designed for drywall to signal that there are studs anywhere you place it. A magnetic stud finder works by locating the nails that attach the lath to the studs. It’s the foolproof method for finding studs in a plaster wall.

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How to Hang Pictures on Plaster Without Wall Stud

Where there is no stud behind your plaster and lath, pre-drill a hole and set specialized plaster anchors into your wall. Then, drive in your screws. Plaster is thicker than drywall and therefore needs longer, specially designed anchors. Drywall anchors can pull out of plaster easily.

  • Determine the location where you will hang your picture or wall art.
  • Mark the location with a piece of tape.
  • Pre-drill a pilot hole through the tape and plaster. Make sure the hole is large enough for the anchor.
  • Where there is no stud, use these specialized anchors for plaster walls.

In addition to the screw-and-anchor system, there are several other ways to hang pictures and other decor on plaster walls without nails. These include adhesive strips, plaster hooks, and picture rails. If you prefer a different method, just make sure to mark and pre-drill holes before you drive anything into plaster.

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How to Hang Pictures on Plaster and Drywall

Hanging pictures on plaster and drywall are very similar processes. Both require nothing more than screws, anchors, and a drill. However, the details are what make the difference. Follow these tips for success hanging pictures on plaster or drywall.

  • When hanging pictures on plaster, always pre-drill holes for screws and anchors.
  • Pictures can be hung on drywall without pre-drilling.
  • Any anchor used in a plaster wall must be specially designed for plaster. Never use self-tapping anchors on plaster
  • All-purpose and self-tapping anchors can be used on drywall.
  • If you are searching for a wall stud in a plaster wall, you must use a special magnetic stud finder.
  • A standard, non-magnetic stud finder will work for drywall walls.

By following these rules, you’ll be able to easily hang pictures no matter whether your wall surfaces are made of drywall or plaster. In just a few minutes, you’ll have a sturdy point to hang your decor and brighten up your space.

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